How Can I Tell If My Internet Is Being Throttled?

Chantel Buchi
Dec 12, 2023
Icon Time To Read2 min read

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If your videos are buffering, your games are lagging, and you sit for extremely long minutes waiting to visit a website—you may be experiencing internet throttling.

Sometimes your internet service provider (ISP) throttles your internet because you’ve reached your data cap. In other words, you exceeded your limit and must pay extra to get more speed. An ISP might also throttle your internet speed during times of high traffic or if it recognizes forbidden activity, like torrenting. (*Tsk, tsk.*)

Other times, it's just because you need a better ISP. Whatever the reason, here are some ways you can tell if bandwidth throttling is taking place and some ideas for what you can do about it.

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Run a free speed test

First, we recommend running a free online speed test to check your internet speed.

Then compare how fast your data is to the speed you should have—the speed you ordered during checkout with your internet service provider.

If your speeds are lower than what you’re paying for, you’re either being throttled—or there’s a problem with your service. In the latter's case, we list 10 easy ways to speed up your internet connection.

If those don’t work, it could be time to upgrade your service. Scroll down further to determine if you need an internet provider with unlimited data caps or more Mbps (faster download speeds).

Why is my ISP throttling my internet?

When too many people try to get online at the same time, the network can become overcrowded. Some ISPs throttle certain connections to help clear up the congestion.

ISP throttling is also pretty common when a customer has exceeded their data usage limit within a specific billing period.

Is throttling internet illegal?

Internet throttling is not illegal in the U.S., and it might even be necessary in some instances. Your internet could be throttled if you go over your data cap, it’s a high-traffic time, or you’re participating in illegal activity.

Check your data cap

Internet providers throttle your speed when you reach your data cap.

You can see how much data you’ve used by logging into your account or calling your ISP. If you've hit your cap, it's safe to assume internet throttling occurs. You may need to wait for the cap to reset at the end of the billing period to avoid getting mad at your computer.

You could also pay for extra data for the month, increase your data cap, or reduce how much data you use monthly.

We also have a helpful internet speed guide to help you calculate the bandwidth your household needs.

Use a VPN to hide your traffic

Internet throttling can occur for customers participating in illegal online activities, including gambling, theft, and torrenting.

But if you’re someone who likes to keep their personal information private, a VPN can encrypt your data and traffic. As a bonus, it also hides your IP address—so nothing can trace back to you—and lets you safely use public Wi-Fi networks.

Make sure you get the best VPN for your needs, whether it be for Mac users, Windows users, streaming services, high-end security, or traveling.

Upgrade your internet plan or service

If you experience throttling month after month, you probably need a plan that works better for you. You may need to seek a plan or provider offering higher data caps or unlimited data.

If you’re not being throttled but battling sluggish internet nonetheless, check out our tips for speeding up your internet.

The table below highlights some of the fastest internet service providers with unlimited data caps, like Xfinity, Google, Verizon, and Cox. If you’d like another source, check out our best internet service providers with unlimited data caps.

Top 5 ISPs with unlimited data
Service
Monthly price
Download speeds
Details
Xfinity Internet$19.99-$120*75-2000 Mbps
Google Fiber$70-$1501000-8000 Mbps
Verizon Fios Home Internet$49.99-$89.99300-2300 Mbps
AT&T Fiber$55–$225^300-5000 Mbps
Cox Internet$9.95-$149.99°100-2000 Mbps
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Pricing for some packages are for the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
Plus taxes and fees. Upload/download speed and device streaming claims are based on maximum wired speeds. Actual Internet speeds are not guaranteed and may vary based on factors such as hardware and software limitations, latency, packet loss, etc.
Price per month with Auto Pay & without select 5G mobile plans. Fios plan prices include taxes & fees
^ Price after $5/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount (w/in 2 bills). Plus taxes $ fees. Limited availability. May not be available in your area.
° Prices exclude taxes, surcharges, usage-based charges, certain equipment, and other fees or charges, which are subject to change.

Additional contributor: Chyelle Dvorak

Chantel Buchi
Written by
Chantel Buchi
Chantel is all about finding the best tv or streaming service to watch as many football games as possible to keep her Fantasy Football team in check. Prior to being a TV and Streaming Tech Reporter for Reviews.org, she worked for NFL Network and The Alliance of American Football. Before that, she received a B.A. of Communication at the University of Utah and an M.S. in Sports Journalism at USC. Go Utes and Fight On. Contact her at chantel@reviews.org

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